In 1993 Bill Murray starred in Ground Hog Day, a movie about a completely selfish weather broadcaster who spends a year trapped in the same day—Ground Hog Day. After repeating the same day several times, Phil (Murray) figures out that he can use the new knowledge he learns each day (names, personal information, and predictable actions) to manipulate people in the small town where Phil is trapped in order to indulge his selfish lusts. However, not everyone can be corrupted. After several weeks of repeated days spent gathering information in an attempt to deceive and seduce his beautiful and innocent weather show producer, Rita, and each evening ending with a cold slap in the face, Phil begins to look at his life more seriously. In the end, he learns that the only happiness in life is found in loving and giving to others. By repeating the same day over and over again, Phil finally learns the lesson that Jesus and even the Old Testament Law teaches: in loving our neighbor, we love ourselves.
When you think about it, Phil’s story is not very much different from everyone’s story. We are all trapped in a series of days. Although each day is not the same day, each day is pretty much the same. Each day begins by waking up, each day ends by falling asleep. We eat, we go to work, we talk to the same people almost every day. Cycles repeat. Summer, autumn, winter, spring; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. As long as we are alive, we are all pretty much like Phil trapped in Ground Hog Day. We learn something new almost every day (about people, about things, about ourselves), but the question for us is the same as it is for Phil in the movie: “Are we learning our lesson?”
As we begin a new year it is time to examine ourselves. Are we going to take what we have learned from the past and use it for our selfish advantage, or are we going to use what we have, what we know, and what we have gained to bless and encourage others? Are we going to learn from experience, repeated so many times in our past, that selfish desires lead us to frustration and we end up hurting the ones we love most? Now is a good time to change; and if you don’t think you can change on your own, now is a good time to get help to change. One thing is certain—and life experience has taught us this—if we continue to walk down that same dead end we have walked down so many times before, we will only end up with the same regrets and frustrations.
Christianity is the faith of new beginnings. Like Phil in Ground Hog Day, every day is a new chance, a chance to try again. Yesterday’s failures are nothing but lessons learnt, if I want to learn the lesson, if I am willing to grow and change. The Church has a name for this daily growth and change. It is called repentance. When we begin our days with morning prayers, we ask God for the strength to live the new day free from the sins and mistakes of the past. We ask God to help us live that day without sin—and we always live just one day at a time. For Christians, the dawning of a new day or the ringing in of a new year is another opportunity, as it says in the Liturgy, to commit ourselves, each other and our whole lives to Christ our God.